Do miracles happen? Are any reported miracles real, or are they all merely artifacts of gullibility, wishful thinking, and fraud? I propose that some miracles do happen and are real, but that God uses natural laws to accomplish miracles, because God is a law maker, not a law breaker.

How does God use natural laws to accomplish divine purposes? Let us start with quantum physics, the most basic and important natural laws undergirding our current understanding of physical reality. Quantum field theory accurately describes and predicts without fail, but it involves statistics and probability. In any situation, quantum field theory predicts what will happen in an accurate statistical way, with various outcomes having different probabilities. Einstein said “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”, but in a sense God does play dice. The outcomes precisely and infallibly follow the predictions of quantum field theory, with the individual occurrences following the predicted probabilities and distributions, but when each possible outcome occurs being governed by purely random chance. But maybe God is, at least some of the time, involved in deciding and determining which statistically possible outcome occurs when. Maybe God, in some cases, chooses statistically very unlikely outcomes of quantum events, to cause what to us seem to be miracles. In the long term, the quantum field equations play out as expected, but statistically unlikely events occur when God so decides. Perhaps chance is the subtle left hand of God.

Some even hypothesize a theory of panpsychism, in which the smallest possible units of quantum “nodes” of reality exhibit minuscule quanta of consciousness that could influence the statistical outcomes of quantum events. But however you slice it, the statistical nature of quantum reality opens the door to even extremely unlikely events happening extremely rarely. Our kind of science is very good at studying, describing and predicting repetitive phenomena but not so good at studying, describing and predicting non-repeating, very rare and even unique phenomena. It is even possible that the quantum field equations, along with their initial conditions, set up one or more truly unique events, baked into the future from the very beginning.

Another factor that can influence miracles is psychology. The human mind is a complex, powerful thing. Certainly the well-known placebo effect demonstrates that the mind can cause very real beneficial changes to the physical body. The implications of this for faith healing are obvious. When a charismatic, trusted healer prays for or lays on hands to heal a person, that person’s mind may well initiate powerful helpful processes in the body, in a sort of reverse psychosomatic effect. Group psychology may also help foster surprising outcomes, for instance the collective spirit, energy and drive of Jesus’ apostles in spreading the growth of Christianity.

God also helps those who help themselves. Most important outcomes are over-determined, and by that I mean that the outcome is driven by more than one important reason behind it. As a possible example, consider Moses parting of the Reed Sea during the exodus. God may well have influenced quantum events to contribute to this event, but perhaps also Moses and the other Israelite leaders were well informed, smart and decisive. They may have known that there was an underwater land bridge in a particular spot in the Reed Sea, and that the waters shallowly covering the land bridge were likely to be at minimum at a particular time due to winds and waves, so they timed the crossing such that the Egyptians, with their heavy chariots, would become stuck in the mud and destroyed by rising water.

Also, Moses may have used his extensive knowledge of the Sinai desert in order to utilize a natural phenomenon to solve the enormous logistical challenge of feeding the Hebrews. Dr. F.S. Bodenheimer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem proposed that the manna consisted of honeydew-like excretions of certain insects which feed on the tamarisk tree. Drops of this excretion solidify in the hot desert air. Even today, locals make confections from this material. If these drops were gathered in the early morning they could be baked into palatable cakes. As is described in the book of Exodus, if the manna is not gathered until later in the day, insects consume it. So maybe Moses used information and smarts to help feed the people. But chance, or God, had to cooperate to make the manna available in sufficient quantity at just the right time and place.

So, in ways like these, over a long period of time from Abraham to Moses through the later prophets to Jesus, the Israelites’ faith in a supreme monotheistic God could have been a valid process guided by divine providence and human reason but without direct “magical” suspension of natural physical laws. For instance, Jesus’ healings could have been a valid process guided by divine providence and utilizing psychological factors. Intriguingly, Jesus is quoted as saying that He could work no wonders in certain Galilean regions because of the lack of faith of the inhabitants.

Then we come to the most outstanding miracle of all times, the resurrection. It is a mystery because we don’t have all the detailed facts and it is impossible to “prove” what happened. But something happened, and there are two major aspects to what was reported. First, we have the empty tomb. Second, we have the appearances to the apostles and others, including the appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus. While there have been reports in many places and times of deceased persons making appearances, none have had the impact that Jesus has had. Curiously, the empty tomb is more rare. I have been unable to find stories of empty tombs. I am sure such stories must have been told, but they don’t seem to be common. Of course, it is not impossible that all the stories about Jesus are exaggerations, misunderstandings etc. But that is not the only possibility. The combination of the empty tomb, the post resurrection appearances and the impact on the apostles and human history are without a doubt unique and uniquely important. It is frustrating that we don’t have definitive exact proof. But in a sense, proof of such a happening is simply not possible. Even if the entire crucifixion, burial , resurrection and subsequent appearances had been filmed, we could hypothesize that the film was doctored, altered or otherwise made fake. Proof is not possible. Such a unique and important event is dependent on how we approach it and understand it. The most pivotable henge in human history is enigmatic, mysterious and consequential.

But we do have the reports that were written a few decades after the events. These reports in the Gospels and the letters of Paul are extraordinary documents that make it clear that the apostles really believed that there was an empty tomb and that a resurrected Jesus subsequently appeared to them. How we understand and interpret their reports is an open question, but I have no doubt that they believed in them.

And if we are looking for proof of miracles, it does exist. Consider the very real miracles of the existence of the universe, life, human beings and consciousness. Even from a scientific point of view, the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe would have had to be so finely tuned to allow anything to exist, especially life, as to be all but impossible. To believe that all this happened by blind luck and for no reason, would be illogical. It is infinitely more rational to believe that all that is has a cause and meaning, than to believe it is a mathematically impossible accident.

When you lay down to go to sleep, contemplate the complex beauty of the universe, our planet, nature, life, and human society, and it will gladden your heart and create joy and wonder, no matter your circumstances. You can go from rags to riches in the silence of the night.